Science Fiction Studies

#69 = Volume 23, Part 2 = July 1996


NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE

The 1996 Milford Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction and Fantasy Editing has been awarded by the J. Lloyd Eaton Conference to Robert M. Philmus and R.D. Mullen.
               
To Set the Record Straight. The statement published in SFS #53 (18:99-100, March 1991) as by Stanislaw Lem, was actually wholly written by me and only signed by Mr Lem. It was based on what Mr Lem had told me in our correspondence years ago of his dealings with Philip K. Dick. At that time I believed that Mr Lem was always telling the truth, but recent experiences with him have given me cause to doubt that naive belief. Since I realize that the statement as published reflects badly on Mr Dick, I should like to point out now that it is based solely upon hearsay and that I cannot vouch for it: I cannot say that Mr Lem did not cheat Mr Dick; I can also not say that he cheated him. I simply know nothing of the matter beside what Mr Lem told me in his letters.—Franz Rottensteiner, Vienna.

 

In Response to Franz Rottensteiner. Mr F. Rottensteiner is no more my literary agent. There was a painful controversion between us, so I was finally forced to give the whole matter to two lawyers, experts in the domain of authors' rights. They advise me to prosecute an action. The above text is a little sample of the venom Mr Rottensteiner tries to spread to denigrate me. The main problem which arose had been the curious idea of my ex-agent to receive money from US agreement, however he has done nothing and has not underwritten it (all work was done by my new agent, Mr Gotler). I am incapable of contradicting in detail all broadsides from Mr Rottensteiner, since the case must be solved by the law courts in Austria.—Stanislaw Lem, Cracow.

 

On SFS #68. An interesting issue, the one that has just arrived. Alkon has done a fine job lambasting the Michigan Mummy, which deserves a roasting in a leading journal. I don't know whether you saw my brief review in the SFRA Review. I said much the same thing, but didn't bother to comment on the critical part of Rauch's introduction, much of which I thought was nonsense.                

I note that Alkon, like myself, believes that finance was the real reason for abridging the text, not editorial fastidiousness. He is not quite right, however, in his production comments. While paper is unquestionably a factor in price, in the case of a long book like The Mummy the typesetting cost would be decisive, and setting the book in a smaller typeface would not help much, since cost, no matter what system is used, is ultimately a function of wordage. The real solution would have been, as I said in my brief review, repaging, or offsetting the 1872 edition.                

By the way, for general information, the University of Chicago library used to have a copy of the 1827 edition. I read it there around 1947-1948, whence my brief article in Derleth's Arkham Sampler. But who knows? The copy may have walked since then.                

The Mummy continues the recent pattern of bad editions of the classics, for the most part perpetrated by persons outside the field. The sad annotated She, the incompetent Foigny, the mediocre Time Machine, etc. Too bad that nothing can be done about it save a review, which is soon forgotten or not seen. The university presses have much to answer for.                

On other matters, Brian Aldiss's essay was both a pleasure and a frustration. It is a brilliant improvisation on a theme, in a musical manner, but it doesn't fulfill the promise of the lead-in. And, of course, Brian ignores such questions as what is meant by “acceptance,” who gives it, and, ultimately, who cares. That last is the important question. The mystery field (to say nothing of other areas of popular fiction like Westerns) doesn't seem to worry much about acceptance. Is this quest for acceptance, or respectability, or soundness, or whatever one wants to call it, part of the old messianic urge that repeatedly pops up in science-fiction?                

Westfahl's article looks interesting. Must read it closely. And enough burbling for one day. Must try to find a copy of Porius. I've liked the Powys boys.—Everett F. Bleiler.

 

Timid Title in a Tempestuous Teapot. When Professor Csicsery-Ronay's review-essay (#67, Nov 1995) came to me for formatting and for such comment as the four editors of SFS exchange on their work, it bore no title and listed two books as its subjects: Samuel J. Umland, ed., Philip K. Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations (1995) and Gregg Rickman, To the High Castle—Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989). Since we had already reviewed the Rickman book (#53, March 1991),  since about half the essay is devoted to Rickman's theories on Dick as expressed in his essay in the Umland volume as well as in To the High Castle, and since Rickman is certainly more widely known as an authority on Dick than any of the other contributors to the volume, it seemed to me appropriate to treat the whole essay as a review of the Umland book and to call the essay “Gregg Rickman and Others on Philip K. Dick.” In the table of contents on the cover, we add to the title of each review-essay a subtitle that identifies the book or books under review in a convenient, space-saving way, so that “Gregg Rickman and Others on Philip K. Dick: the Umland Collection” followed our regular practice. No slight to Professor Umland or any of the other contributors to the book was intended in that title. Even so, Professor Umland did take offense, evidently in the belief the title of a review-essay must include the name of the author and the title of the book. And I have since received another angry letter, this one charging that the review “failed to identify the title of [the] book,” just as if

Samuel J. Umland, ed. Philip K. Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 63. Greenwood Press, 1995. vii+228. $55.00

did not appear at the head of the review.                

Ah, now I remember. When I was in high school and college in the 1930s, teachers and handbooks did say that a reviewer should not refer to such a headnote with something like “this book” but should instead spell out the title of the book in the opening sentences. Do they still legislate such conspicuous display?—RDM.

 

Umland and Csicsery-Ronay on Rickman. The following is intended to clarify some facts at issue in the debate between Sam Umland and Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr regarding my own work on Philip K. Dick.                

1) My  essay in Umland's Philip K. Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations was indeed drawn from my work-in-progress on Dick. Now that it has been published, however, only part of it will surface in the completed work.                

2) The first volume of my Dick biography (To the High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1926-1962, published in 1989) was intended to be immediately followed by a second volume, Firebright, to cover the period 1962-82. In 1990, however, I decided to write a short volume to bridge volumes one and two. It was intended to address the criticism my child-abuse thesis had drawn as well as the issue of Philip K. Dick's FBI correspondence of 1974. (I see the two issues as interlinked, as indicated in my essay “Dick, Deception, and Dissociation,” published in SFS #54 in July 1991 and republished in On Philip K. Dick).                

This “short” volume, Variable Man: The Lives of Philip K. Dick, has since grown to a MS some 100 pages longer than To the High Castle. My plan for it was announced in that 1991 article. I still feel it should be published before Firebright (which I intend to return to) as it contains substantial amounts of new material relevant to the 1928-62 period, including, Csicsery-Ronay to the contrary, new evidence regarding the child-abuse theory.                

3) I agree with Csicsery-Ronay that Variable Man should be published as soon as possible.  Unfortunately new material keeps coming up which demands consideration. Take my Dissociative Identity Disorder thesis, first sketched in my 1991 article. I agree with Csicsery-Ronay that it is presented in my essay on We Can Build You in a more “reductive” fashion than was the abuse thesis in To the HighCastle. This is largely a function of the space available in a short essay rather than a book. (Quite evidently I am giving it all the space I feel it needs in Variable Man.)     

In my 1991 article I asserted that “Dick was a victim of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) brought on by traumatic childhood experiences (involving abuse which was physical, emotional, and almost certainly sexual).” The Variable Man MS substantiates both the first and the second of these claims. The abuse claim is much stronger now, I believe, than in my more tentative suggestions in To the High Castle (I am sorry that Csicsery-Ronay regards the evidence I presented in 1989 as “thin.” I disagree.)     

So far as the multiple personality claim goes, Dick meets every criterion set forth for MPD/DID in the standard texts on the subject by Bliss, Kluft, Putnam and Ross, as cited in the 1991 article. However I have of late been rewriting Variable Man to account for the various critiques of MPD/DID that have been published since 1991. I am taking Frederick Crews' essays on CSA and “false memory” (mentioned by Csicsery-Ronay) into account but am in fact paying much more attention to the subtler critique of Ian Hacking (in his Rewriting the Soul) and also of the various psychiatrists, pro as well as con, published in the 1995 anthology Dissociative Identity Disorder: Theoretical and Treatment Controversies (edited by Lewis M. Cohen, Joan N. Berzoff, and Mark R. Elin). I am in particular looking at the question of  iatrogenesis: were Dick's different selves “real”? Or artifacts of therapy? Or of Dick's own (very extensive) readings in psychology? I have established for example that Dick saw both the films of The Three Faces of Eve (1957) and the TV movie Sybil (1973)—this last a few months before the “Valis event” of 1974, in which his “alternative personality” Thomas emerged to “help” Dick with the FBI letters. In the Cohen anthology Harold Merskey asserts that all cases subsequent to the publicity surrounding those cases “are suspect of being prepared by prior information” (22). Well, perhaps. And if so, so what? My claim, then, is now not that “Philip K. Dick was a multiple personality” but that “Philip K. Dick was a multiple personality if that term has any meaning.” My manuscript then makes a case that (Crews, Merksey, et al to the contrary) diagnoses of Dissociative Identity Disorder do have meaning and are valid.                

4) The reader may begin to see why my private nickname for Variable Man is “Interminable Man” It was due in 1991. It was 90% done two years ago. It is 95% done now. Philip Dick wrote of Zeno's Paradox in “The Indefatigable Frog” and I know how that frog felt. Major claims require major proofs, however, which is why completion has been delayed—not, I hope, indefinitely.                

5) I would certainly not be writing about my unfinished, uncompleted work here if not for Csicsery-Ronay's essay on my work to date, and his subsequent debate about it with Sam Umland. Umland is at an advantage—he's read much of it in draft. He has also contributed a superb appendix to Variable Man, the life history of Dick's grandfather, a fascinating piece of original research. He finished it four years ago. Umland and Csicsery-Ronay agree—he also wants me to publish as soon as possible.                

I must admit I'm very pleased that Csicsery-Ronay and others consider my work important enough to discuss at such length. I look forward to their reaction to Variable Man, almost as much as I look forward to finishing the damn thing and moving on to (and back to) Firebright.     

I will otherwise leave it to Csicsery-Ronay and my friend Sam Umland to battle it out regarding the merits of Umland's (excellent) anthology and Csicsery-Ronay's review of same.—Gregg Rickman, San Francisco.

 

A Few Personal Interventions Regarding the Recent Exchange Between Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., and Samuel J. Umland, Otherwise Known as the Great Android-Human War. I had intended to send in a few modest comments in reponse to Istvan Csicsery-Ronay's (fairly) recent review-essay about Samuel J. Umland's collection, Philip K Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations—mainly, I confess, because my own name cropped up a couple of times in ICR's piece, both as one of the contributors to the anthology and otherwise. Before I got around to that pleasant task, however, I received the subsequent issue of SFS and found, to my vast gratification, that the original review had now blossomed into a full-scale set-to between ICR and SJU, all wonderfully decked out in the pulp-sf trappings of a mighty struggle between android and human. Again my name figured more than once. My overall impression is simply that it is far, far better to have ICR as a critic than SJU as a “defendee.” But please allow me a few more particular observations.   

1. Commenting that my own contribution to the SJU volume “seem[s] unncessary,” ICR avers that, though it once “had an important place in the history of Marxist and psychoanalytic readings of Dick's corpus,” it now “seems dated.” Does it, really? I'm not quite sure just how to argue with this sort of claim. I mean, my own testimony—that to me the essay in question still seems as fresh as a mountain stream—won't count for much, will it? But I should like to record the grievous wound to my narcissism that ICR—heartless android!—inflicted by suggesting that I am now old enough to have once published an essay which today seems dated. The next time I run into ICR, I believe I will demand compensatory damages, probably in the form of a Scotch-on-the-rocks. After all, if Joe Chip can argue with a litigious door, and if Rick Deckard can go to bed with Rachael Rosen, I should be able to get the android editor to buy a round.                

2. Later in his review, ICR refers to another piece of mine and paraphrases me as criticizing Gregg Rickman “for undertaking psychobiography without the expertise of a professional like Erik Erikson.” I fear that just a few of the circuits in the android's positronic brain may have been misfiring a little when he wrote this. In any case, he has got me slightly but significantly wrong. Though I do at one point contrast Rickman on Dick with Erikson on Luther and Gandhi, I also make explicit that my idea of “a truly great psycho-biographer” is one of Sartrean or Eriksonian stature” (emphasis added); and I earlier give Sartre on Flaubert as an example of first-rate biography. The point here is that, though Erikson did possess professional credentials as a psychotherapist, Sartre did not. ICR implies that I fault Rickman for (in effect) practicing long-distance therapy without a license; but my actual concern was not the relative trifle (in this context) of professional certification, but intellectual depth and rigor. Maybe I'd better make that a double Scotch-on-the-rocks.                

3. Finally, I come to the curious series of temper tantrums with which SJU responded to ICR. Actually, I will confine myself to the final such tantrum, the one directed at Freud, Lacan, and (the Bob Dole habit infects us all) Freedman. SJU clearly does not like psychoanalysis, and, though he suggests no arguments against it, he does seem to feel that there is something definitive in the current journalistic popularity of Freud-bashing—as though the latter were something new and different. The truth, of course, is that such resistance to psychoanalysis is at least as old as Freud's earliest psychological writings; since the question of whether or to what degree this resistance may be justified cannot be rigorously engaged here, I will stick to the more personal references. When I read of “Freedman's own uncritical use of the theories of Jacques Lacan [in the essay, by the way, that SJU begged for permission to reprint],” I can only rub my eyes and read the sentence again. What? Does anyone with a serious knowledge of, say, Lacan's Eleventh Seminar really think that my attempt to situate that text in a Marxist framework and to apply it to the reading of sf is “uncritical”? That the project is obvious, straightforward, and blind in its devotion to the Lacanian letter? The more plausible objection would in fact be just the opposite: namely, that I press Lacan into a service of which he would not necessarily approve. I would not accept that criticism, but I can understand how an intelligent reader might make it. But perhaps we should not expect intelligence (human or artificial) from anyone capable of such a pronouncement as, “Lacan's theories are irrelevant to sociology”—i.e., theories of the formation of human subjects are irrelevant to the study of the human societies in which human subjects are formed. It is, really, a bit perplexing to witness, in SJU's screed, the yoking-together of such intellectual obtuseness with (as ICR notes) an overheated passion to insult and demonize. Maybe SJU had an extremely bad day. Or maybe, as Dr. Susan Calvin (a qualified psychologist, complete with Ph.D. from Columbia!) would surely instruct us, that's just the way humans can be.—Carl Freedman, Louisiana State University.

 

On the Origins of Ralph 124C 41+. I found Gary Westfahl's article comparing various printings of Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+ useful, but his contentions that I made up the information about Gernsback beginning the writing of the novel as a last minute filler as a deliberate falsehood is an incredible extrapolation of publishing ignorance.
     Not only did I get the information from reviewing the creation of the novel in an interview with Hugo Gernsback, but I got more which Westfahl obviously didn't bother to check when he reviewed Modern Electrics and the material in my article. The illustration for the first installment of Ralph in the April 1911 Modern Electrics was drawn by Lewis Coggeshell, who did illustrations for the magazine from the first issue. Coggeshell boarded with Gernsback on 14th Street and was his partner in the Electro Importing Company. The drawing was a very crude black and white pen-and-ink drawing which would have taken about 15 minutes to draw. Coggeshell drew it while Gernsback waited and it was superimposed against a background previously drawn by Thos. S. Wrenn which had nothing whasoever to do with the story. Wrenn also continued to illustrate for Modern Electrics and the later Electrical Experimenter.                

Since at that time Gernsback listed the features of every issue on the front cover, the covers always had to be printed last. Having handled the printing for the magazines I edited for 30 years, I can tell you that on letterpress, the drawing could have been made into a cut in hours and the type for the cover set in minutes and the final printing of the cover, depending upon Gernsback's press run, a matter of hours. Further, my article containing the information was printed as a separate booklet by Criterion Press for Gernsback's 76th birthday, for which he loaned me a half-dozen illustrative cuts; it was reprinted in Amazing Stories, and then collected in Explorers of the Infinite. All of these Gernsback received and read and if the account had been in error he would have corrected it. There was no logical reason for him to allow an error to be repeated indefinitely.—Sam Moskowitz, Newark.

 

In Response to Sam Moskowitz. I thank Sam Moskowitz for his informative letter, but I believe that his indignation is inappropriate. In the first place, regarding the story that Hugo Gernsback wrote the first installment of Ralph 124C 41+ as last-minute filler material, I did not “contend” that Moskowitz “made up” the story; I merely stated that as one possibility. The actual sentence: “Whether Moskowitz created this story or heard it from Gernsback, it is almost certainly false” (38). Further, to suggest that Moskowitz may have created this account in no way impugns his integrity. Scholars, biographers, and historians, in trying to describe poorly remembered or poorly recorded events, are often obliged to make their own best judgments about what actually occurred. If Moskowitz had concluded, based on his own research, that Gernsback began his novel only to fill space in one issue, he would have had every right to state that. Certainly, many statements in my article regarding Gernsback's purposes and priorities in writing and revising Ralph were obviously my own “creations,” based on my reading of the printed page, that might well be challenged by someone with other sources of information.                

In any event, and as the quoted sentence already indicates, the news that Gernsback himself offered this story in no way alters my conclusion. Thirteen years ago, while first researching Gernsback for my dissertation, I happened to discuss this very subject with my advisor, William Spengemann. His advice was blunt: never automatically assume that everything authors say about their own work is correct! In particular, he warned, authors will often, in an attempt to forestall criticism, claim that meticulously planned and carefully crafted works were in fact written hastily and spontaneously. If this understandable defensive reaction is common to authors, there is no reason to believe that Gernsback was immune from the tendency.               

Thus, I repeat: the facts that the first installment appeared in the first issue of a new volume, that it was far too short to be credibly regarded as a necessary space-filling device, and that it was announced from the start as a “serial story” all powerfully indicate that the decision to start writing Ralph involved a certain amount of forethought.                

As I probably should have mentioned in an article that was already very long, the bound volumes of Modern Electrics that I consulted did not include the magazine's covers, so I had no opportunity to examine them; it wasn't that I “obviously didn't bother to check” them. But I am puzzled by his parallel assertion that I “obviously didn't bother to check” his original article when, in fact, there is no information at all about Modern Electrics covers in the Gernsback article in Explorers of the Infinite. Perhaps the other versions of the article were more complete. Yet even if the covers were printed last, not first, that also does not affect my conclusion, since Gernsback's insistence on featuring his story on the cover, at any stage in the process, still suggests a certain pride of authorship that one would not normally associate with a piece written in desperate haste to fill one and a half pages in a magazine.                

Finally, one must consider a few other texts that I did bother to check: the satirical science fiction pieces that Gernsback wrote for his Christmas cards in the 1940s and later republished in Science-Fiction Plus; his last novel, Ultimate World, written in the 1950s after the collapse of Science-Fiction Plus; and Moskowitz's introduction to that novel, which described an early novel written in German by a very young Hugo Gernsback. Clearly, throughout his life, Gernsback wanted to be a fiction writer, and throughout his life, whenever he had the opportunity, Gernsback wrote fiction, even when there was no market for it. In light of this evidence of his lifelong literary ambitions, I simply cannot believe that Gernsback decided to begin his most famous novel simply because he suddenly noticed that the next issue of his magazine needed another page and a half of material.—Gary Westfahl, University of California, Riverside.

 

On Nuclear Holocausts. A supplement to Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction 1895-1984, including many works that were not listed in that volume either because they appeared too late or because I simply overlooked them, is available on the World Wide Web at
                http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/nuclear/nh-supplement.html
In addition I have mounted a set of study notes for a number of science-fiction works on my pages at
                http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/science_fiction/Science_Fiction_Guides.html
Mail: Department of English, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-5020. brians@wsu.edu. Web: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians. —Paul Brians.

 

Verne on the WWW. A new Internet discussion group on Jules Verne has been started on the World Wide Web: the Jules Verne Forum, moderated by Dr. Zvi Har'El of the Israel Institute of Technology. The e-mail address is jvg@math.technion.ac.il. To join send e-mail to listproc@math.technion.il with the message “subscribe jvf” followed by your name.

 

Paper Call. Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly invites submissions for its 20th Anniversary issues, to appear in 1997. Though articles on any theoretical, generic, historical, or cultural aspect of lifewriting are welcome, the editors are especially interested in essays which extend the range of biography, autobiography, hagiography, oral and group history into other fields and disciplines—multicultural studies, regional and national studies, literary history, film theory, social science, science and technology, marketing and media studies, medicine, law, or any other suitable frame.   

Manuscripts should be between 2,500 and 7,500, though shorter and longer essays are occasionally published. Please submit two copies of any manuscript. Since Biography has a double-blind submission policy, the author's name should not appear anywhere on either copy, but in the cover letter. Decisions about publication will be received within three months, and comments are provided for all essays received.   

Send submissions to the Center for Biographical Research, c/o Department of English, 1733 Donaghho Road, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822. For more information, contact the Editor, Craig Howes, at biograph@hawaii.edu, at 808-956-3774, or at the above mailing address.


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